One of the toughest Dakar races ever and sadly a biker died.
First Week: 5 January to 12 January 2020 – 7 Stages: Liaison 1514km; Special 2942km; Total 4456km.
Paulo Goncalves from Portugal died after a crash on his Indian manufactured Hero during Sunday’s 7th stage of the Dakar Rally. The 40-year-old was competing in his 13th Dakar. Goncalves is the first competitor to die in the Dakar since Michal Hernik in 2015.
Known as the most relentless of the world’s cross-country rallies, the Dakar, has moved from South America to Saudi Arabia. After Stage 7 on Sunday 12 January 2020, a Total of 235 out of 351 vehicles that started the event, were still competing, consisting of 103 of 147 Bikes, 13 of 23 Quads, 61 of 89 Cars, 29 of 47 Side-by-sides, and 27 of 45 Trucks. In the first week competitors raced 2942km, covering a total distance of 4456km when the Liaison stages are included. Racing on some of the most unforgiving and challenging terrain that the globe offers and the top biker completed it in 28H 25’ 01” at a blazing average speed of 103,53km/h. This field included 13 women.
Initially the rocky terrain and the roads were filled with stones that gave the impression of lava spatters, with extremely rough edges. This resulted in the Toyota Gazoo Racing team losing 11 tyres between 4 vehicles in the first stage.
As the stages went on the roads became large flat lava rocks with sandy tracks in between, that led into deep sand dunes and terrain similar to the old Dakar in Africa up to the capital, Riyadh, where the teams enjoyed a rest day on Saturday before they raced Stage 7 on Sunday, where most of the stage was run on desert sand across big dunes.
On day 1, 13km into the first stage, Frenchman Willy Jobard withdrew when he dislocated his shoulder.
In stage 2 Bolivian, Daniel Nosiglia Jager, crashed and was forced to withdraw resulting from a head injury.
Then stage 3 saw Frenchman, Adrien van Beveren, crash out of the race with a fractured collar bone and injured hip. Guillaume Cholet crashed at 58km which resulted in pain in his ribs forcing him out of the event. Olaf Harmsen from the Netherlands was forced to retire after he crashed at a jump around 122km. 59-year-old Dutchman, Martien Jimmink in his 2nd Dakar crashed after 180km and was evacuated by the medical team. Xavier de Soultrait badly injured his wrist, with top 2 Yamaha riders already out of the race. These were a few of the six withdrawals from the race in the stage. Paulo Goncalves lost a lot of time during the stage and it was expected that he would withdraw from his 13th Dakar, but he soldiered on.
In stage 4 Jo Bareda lost a lot of time after he took a tumble and hurt his ribs 270km into the stage.
In Stage 5, Dutchman, Guillaume Martens took a spectacular tumble at the 270km mark with injuries to his head, hip and buttocks and he wanted to carry on, but the medical team stopped him. 2017 Dakar winner, Sam Sunderland crashed out after 187km.
Ricky Brabec (USA) on a Monster Energy Honda took a strong grip on the leader position from Stage 2; He has a 24’48” lead. Chilean, Pablo Quintanilla, on a Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, is second place for the last 2 stages, with a small margin.
Chile’s Ignacio Casale controlled the Quad race from the front since Stage 1. In the last two stages Frenchman Simon Vitse is in 2nd place ahead of Polish rider Rafal Sonik.
In the car category Romain Dumas (France) was the first retirement when his buggy went up in flames 65km into the first stage.
Former World Rally Champion, Carlos Sainz Sr. from Spain in a Bahrain JCW X-Raid Mini took the overall lead in the cars at the end of stage 3, with Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar in a Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux in second place and Frenchman, Stephane Peterhansel, in third place, driving the second Mini. Sainz leads the Toyota by 10 minutes.
Due to punctures, South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers dropped down to 14th place in his Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux. He has since regained the 6th place.
Formula 1 champion, Spaniard Fernando Alonso, from the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team, had a few mishaps in the early stages and dropped to 48th place in stage 2. He has since fought back and has demonstrated why he is a world champion, because he is in 15th place.
The side-by-Side or SSV class proves to be the most challenging, as no dominance has emerged up to stage 7. Two strong contenders, Casey Currie from the USA and Francisco Lopez Contardo from Chile have both led the race twice. Currie spent four stages in 2nd place and Contardo three.
In the truck category the Petronas De Rooy Iveco team lost their experienced team members, while the multi-time winners, Russian KAMAZ Teams are the favourites.
Andrey Karginov took the lead in stage 4 and since secured a 21’12” lead over his countryman and KAMAZ team mate Anton Shibalov who has been in second place since stage 5.
With 5 stages remaining and 2174km of racing with a total distance of 3401km to be completed, a lot can still happen in a very challenging 2020 Dakar.
- Coen van Zyl